Lumpy Ridge rises above Estes Park, CO, concealing climbing routes, elk and deer herds, campsites, and an alpine lake. Get a full tour on this 10.2-mile dayhike or spend a night or two at one of the trailside campsites. From the trailhead, head up the Gem Lake Trail, winding through conifers. At mile 1.5 is Gem Lake, an alpine pool with no outlet stream, tucked under the rocky cliffs. In about a mile, turn right onto Balanced Rock Trail.
Ahead, the trail turns west and follows Cow Creek (and its namesake trail). Over the next few miles this loop passes three established campsites: Rabbit Ears (milepoint 4.2), Peregrine (milepoint 5), and Sundance (milepoint 7.8). Backcountry permits required. Turn left (south) after 6 miles and begin the loop back to the trailhead, passing through a short stretch of private property, under impressive cliffs, and long views to Longs Peak, the highest and the only 14,000-foot peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.
INFO For information on permits, current trail and camp conditions, and wilderness guidelines, go to nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcountry.htm
PERMIT A wilderness permit is required for all overnight camping in the backcountry. Reservations accepted ($20 administrative fee for permits during peak season). nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/backcntry_guide.htm
CONTACT Rocky Mountain National Park, (970) 586-1206; nps.gov/romo
-Mapped by Jeff Chow
- Distance: 16.5
Location: 40.396721, -105.512741
Hike southwest from the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. In 200 feet, turn right onto Gem Lake Trail to start loop.
Location: 40.402, -105.51255
Turn right @ T-intersection. From here, begin the climb to Gem Lake on a sandy trail flanked by conifers.
Location: 40.403801, -105.510117
Look to the south for 180-degree views across the park. Longs Peak's distinct diamond face rises in the distance.
Location: 40.409882, -105.503998
Pass a privy with a view, then continue north toward Gem Lake.
Location: 40.410416, -105.503715
Gem Lake: This small mountain pool (no outlet stream) is tucked at the foot of vertical rock cliffs. Watch out for the brave and hungry chipmunks that live here.
Location: 40.418865, -105.508369
Turn right @ T-junction onto Balanced Rock Trail. Hike northeast.
Location: 40.426998, -105.517899
Cross a narrow bridge over Cow Creek. Ahead, the trail enters a deep, open valley and gradually climbs along Cow Creek.
Location: 40.42765, -105.52095
Turn left @ T-junction with Cow Creek Trail. Hike west.
Location: 40.427166, -105.523918
Trail passes Rabbit Ears Campsite.
Location: 40.42725, -105.534866
Stay left on Black Canyon Trail @ Y-junction to continue on the loop. Optional: Veer right @ Y-intersection for a 2-mile (round-trip) side trip to Bridal Falls.
Location: 40.427517, -105.535881
Cross bridge over Cow Creek (separate trail for horses).
Location: 40.427433, -105.537933
Pass the Peregrine Campsite.
Location: 40.422482, -105.560799
Crest a saddle with a small clearing and head west.
Location: 40.422268, -105.562485
Turn left @ 3-way junction, heading south. The trail that continues straight leads to Lawn Lake and Mummy Mountain.
Location: 40.408382, -105.550697
Pass Sundance Campsite.
Location: 40.405117, -105.543701
Walk through a gate and follow the trail across open fields with views of the valley. Note: This section travels through private property. Stay on the trail.
Location: 40.403969, -105.540001
Continue straight @ 3-way junction with the Pear Trail.
Location: 40.401585, -105.535286
Pass through a gate and continue hiking southeast.
Location: 40.401531, -105.535217
Pass trail to the Book Area, a climber access.
Location: 40.401482, -105.525032
Cross bridge and pass through gate, leaving private property.
Location: 40.401501, -105.521034
Cross the gravel road that leads to NPS staff housing.
Location: 40.401718, -105.520386
Turn right (southeast) @ T-junction to return to the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. Ahead, pass a couple of gates and bridges.
Rocky Mountain National Park Boundary
Location: 40.4002, -105.51152
Location: 40.402515, -105.510048
Location: 40.407635, -105.50618
Location: 40.408733, -105.505882
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Location: 40.410751, -105.503677
Beach at Gem Lake
Location: 40.410751, -105.503677
Location: 40.410751, -105.503685
Location: 40.426518, -105.514
Location: 40.427601, -105.521301
Rabbit Ears Campsite
Location: 40.427383, -105.522415
Location: 40.426968, -105.52877
Location: 40.427399, -105.535683
Location: 40.427566, -105.538917
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Location: 40.409168, -105.55265
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Location: 40.408184, -105.550034
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Location: 40.405434, -105.54435
Location: 40.405033, -105.543282
Location: 40.404732, -105.541786
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Location: 40.401901, -105.535751
Location: 40.400566, -105.526184
Location: 40.401482, -105.52227
Location: 40.397202, -105.515182
Cluster of Signs
Location: 40.4016, -105.521713